WASHINGTON — “No contract, no coal” chanted some 150 United Mine Workers of America members and their supporters at a rally here Nov. 18 in support of striking miners locked in a bitter strike battle against Warrior Met mine bosses in Brookwood, Alabama. The action took place outside Fidelity Investments, one of the largest shareholders at Warrior Met.
It was one of six protests that day in cities across the country and in Melbourne, Australia. More solidarity actions are needed as bosses turn to the courts to try to use state power to stifle the miners’ fight. An Oct. 27 restraining order by Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Roberts banned picketing and all union activity within 300 yards of the Brookwood mines. The ban has been extended twice and currently runs until Dec. 5.
It is one of the most severe restrictions the labor movement has faced in decades, attacking the constitutional right to free assembly, as mine owners push to break the UMWA.
“We could be where the Warrior Met miners are tomorrow,” Jeffery Harris, a miner from Harris Number One mine in Boone County, West Virginia, told the Militant at the rally. “The company where I work could do the same thing.”
Some 1,100 UMWA members went on strike at Warrior Met April 1, after bosses refused to reverse concessions imposed in 2016 after the previous owner, Jim Walter Resources, went bankrupt and demanded miners make concessions to let the mines get back on their feet. Wage cuts of $6 an hour were forced on miners, along with reductions to retirement benefits and health insurance. This year, bosses reneged on promises they made to reverse the cuts once the mine returned to profitability.
Harris described how bosses at the mine where he works also used bankruptcy proceedings to threaten to cut medical coverage and overturn the union’s contract a few years ago.
Eventually “we did get a contract,” he said, “but they could try it again. Workers are standing up. They think we are supposed to bow down but from now on we are going to fight.”
The majority of miners and their families at the rally came in on buses from West Virginia and Kentucky, many from generations of mining families. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, were among those who addressed the crowd.
Some three dozen miners and supporters rallied the same day on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, to demand Gov. Kay Ivey end her use of state troopers to escort strikebreakers across UMWA picket lines. Bosses at Warrior Met have violence-baited the union, claiming strikers have assaulted scabs.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts condemned Ivey’s use of the Alabama State Police. “This is all about which side are you on,” he told the rally.